They are the largest European grebes with slender white necks in all plumages. In winter the face is mostly pale with just a narrow black, slightly crested, cap. In summer this pattern develops into elaborate black and chestnut plumes called tippets. In flight they appear hump-backed with conspicuously pale panels in the long narrow wings.
For breeding prefers fresh or brackish water, fringed by vegetation, with sizeable sheets of open waer for foraging. Readily accepts artificial water bodies, including reservoirs, ponds, fish ponds, gravel pits an ornamental lakes; also on slow stretches of rivers with backwaters or pools.In tropical Africa, occurs on cold montane lakes, up to 3000 m and above;in New Zealand, occupies alpine and subalpine lakes up to 1000 m, where, incontrast to Palearctic birds, tolerates harsh conditions, including rough water and occasionally waters partially frozen over. Outwith breeding siason,disperses to coasts, estuaries and large, exposed lakes and reservoirs.
Podiceps cristatus is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which accounts
for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
large (>300,000 pairs), and underwent a large increase between 1970-1990. Although
the species was stable or increased across much of Europe during 1990-2000, certain
populations-notably in Finland, Sweden and Poland-suffered declines, and the
species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
Mainly sizeable fish, wide variety of species taken. Takes wide tange of insects andother aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, especially crayfish and shrimps,and molluscs,including snails; dives average 20-25 seconds performed in areas of open water or with scattered clumps of vegetation.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 530,000-1,700,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Egg laying starts mainly April-July in Europe, all months in tropical Africa, with peaks usualy inor immediatly after long rains.Nest is a platform of aquatic plants,either floating and anchored to vegetation or built from lake bottom. Clutch usually 3-5 eggs which are incubated for 25-30 days. This species reaches sexual maturity at 2 years of age.
Their courtship displays are remarkable. Most commonly they involve both members of a pair facing each other on the water and repeatedly shaking their heads or quickly turning the head away and touching their back. Such birds may then swim away, dive for nesting material then swim towards each other with their necks out flat on the water in front of them. When they meet, they rise up together as if they’re standing on the water facing each other, beaks full of vegetation, waving their heads from side to side and paddling like fury with their feet. The standing posture gives this the name of ‘Penguin display’. Another display involves holding the wings out sideways and turning them so that the feathers face forwards, showing as much as possible of their black and white wing pattern. Like other grebes, they will carry their young on their backs.
Migratory and dispersive; unlikely that any west Palearctic population truly sedentary though some individuals may be. In west Europe, at least, many make short moult movements to large lakes and reservoirs; females tend to depart first, males to moult on breeding waters. Movements away from nesting areas begin July-August; moulting concentrations build up on certain waters then, and in September are joined by birds that moulted elsewhere. In west Europe, dispersal to coast gradual after moult, many remaining inland October-November, though fewer by January; these remain unless or until water freezes. In north and east Europe, more strictly summer migrant as lakes more often frozen in winter. Return movements gradual, from mid-February in Britain but not until April in Russia; most territories taken up by early May though presumed non-breeders arrive into June.
- spanwidth min.: 59 cm
- spanwidth max.: 73 cm
- size min.: 46 cm
- size max.: 51 cm
- incubation min.: 27 days
- incubation max.: 29 days
- fledging min.: 71 days
- fledging max.: 79 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 1
- eggs max.: 6
- Conservation Status
- Podiceps cristatus australis
- Australia, Tasmania, South I. (New Zealand)
- Podiceps cristatus infuscatus
- Podiceps cristatus cristatus
- Podiceps cristatus
- EU widespread